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Daunte Wright Shooting Trial Day 4: Prosecution Strategy Of Showing Jury As Many Bloody Photos As Possible Continues

Daunte Wright Shooting Trial Day 4: Prosecution Strategy Of Showing Jury As Many Bloody Photos As Possible Continues

The State did not, however, appear to substantively advance a theory of manslaughter based on today’s testimony. 

Welcome to our coverage of the Kim Potter manslaughter trial over the April 11, 2021, shooting death of Duante Wright in a suburb of Minneapolis, when then-police officer Potter accidentally used her Glock 17 pistol in place of her intended Taser.

Today was the fourth day of the trial proper, and although today the State worked through seven more of its witnesses in its case in chief it nevertheless appeared to once again to do little but provide evidence on factual matters not in dispute and to which I’m confident the defense would have been happy to stipulate.

The State did not, however, appear to substantively advance a theory of manslaughter based on today’s testimony.  Indeed, most of the day appeared to be an excuse to show the jury numerous and various bloody photos of Duante Wright, his vehicle, his clothing, and so forth.

Dr. Lorren Jackson, Medical Examiner

The State’s first witness was Medical Examiner Dr. Lorren Jackson, with the direct examination by ADA Erin Eldridge. Cross-examination would be by Attorney Earl Gray.

Dr. Jackson testified that Duante Wright’s cause of death was a 9mm round to the heart, and the manner of death was homicide—that he was shot by Kim Potter.  I know—utterly shocking.

These undisputed facts took nearly an hour of direct and re-direct testimony. In contrast, the defense spent merely about 5 minutes on cross-examination and re-cross.

There was some discussion on direct and cross about how long someone shot through the heart as Wright had been would remain conscious, with the State arguing for zero or only a few seconds and the defense arguing for as long as perhaps a minute.

This would presumptively be arguing on the question of whether shooting (or Tasing) someone in control of a vehicle is per se reckless because the impaired driver operating the vehicle presents as a foreseeable deadly force threat to others.

Special Agent Melissa Loren, BCA Forensic Investigator

Loren was one of the half-dozen BCA investigators called today as witnesses for the prosecution.

Loren’s job was as an on-scene investigator, doing a walk-through of the crash and traffic stop scenes, collecting bits of evidence, finding Potter’s fired cartridge case inside Wright’s vehicle, having Wright’s vehicle towed to the BCA vehicle inspection garage, where BCA conducted a comprehensive examination of the vehicle.

This testimony took about 45 minutes of direct examination, and only about 3 ½ minutes of cross-examination—that brief cross-examination was interrupted by a 5-minute sidebar during which Judge Chu refused to allow the defense to ask about a digital scale discovered in the center console of Wright’s Buick.

The evidence she found was consistent with Potter having shot Duante Wright once in the chest at the site of the traffic stop, then Wright’s car traveling about a block until it crossed into oncoming traffic and smashed into the Lundgren’s vehicle, where it stopped.  From there, Wright’s body would be removed from the vehicle by first responders and after some unsuccessful aid be declared deceased.

Again, shocking.

SA Brent Petersen, BCA Force Investigative Unit

Next up was Special Agent Brent Petersen, who works for the BCA’s Force Investigative Unit—this is the special unit that focuses on use-of-force events involving Minnesota police officers.  The direct examination was conducted by ADA Joshua Larson, and cross-examination by Earl Gray.

The purpose for the State calling Petersen as a witness appeared to be so that they could have him explain to the jury what he personally saw on various body cameras and dash-camera videos.  In particular, the State had prepared a composite video including the body camera of Potter, the body camera of Sergeant Johnson, and the dash camera from Officer Luckey’s squad car.

The major point of Petersen’s testimony was apparently to argue that the bodies of Johnson and Luckey were already outside of the vehicle when Potter fired her fatal shot, such that her use of force was not necessary in order to prevent the two other officers from being dragged in the vehicle.

Of course, the officers had pulled back from the vehicle only in response to Potter’s cry of “Taser! Taser! Taser!,” and by that point, she had definitively committed to firing what she believed to be her Taser—a use of force that would have been reasonable to prevent Wright from fleeing the arrest scene at speed in the Buick and endangering bystanders in his path, even if Johnson and Luckey were no longer in danger.  In any case, had Wright chosen to reverse, the open car doors would have swept up all three officers.

The defense made strenuous objections to this use of Petersen’s testimony, basically narrating what was visible in the videos, on the grounds that the videos spoke for themselves, and the jury could make their own assessments of what they saw.

Apparently, ADA Larson had first proposed to make these arguments using still photographs, which the Judge had ruled against because the stills failed to capture the dynamic nature of the event.  As an alternative, Larson then chose to freeze-frame the actual video—which is not, of course, substantively different than using the still photos.  This led to repeated objections, allowances, more objections, and that brought us right up to lunch.

Separately, it was also notable that the State’s presentation of this composite video appeared to have been slowed down to 50% speed—without informing the court that this was being done—which suggested far more time for decision-making than was actually the case. Also, Potter’s body camera footage was offset a full second from the other two videos that made up the composite.

Separately, Larson had also used Petersen to attest to the particularly injurious nature of hollow-point bullets.

After lunch, Judge Chu informed the prosecution that she would not allow them to continue on this composite video path, and immediately thereafter the State was done with direct of Petersen.

On cross-examination, Gray drew out that hollow-point bullets were routinely used by law enforcement because they were safer for bystanders, and that Petersen himself carried hollow-point bullets in his duty weapon.  Gray also drew out that a body camera could only capture a small fraction of the visual information available to the wider field of vision of a police officer’s eyes, as well as the officer’s ability to direct their vision independent of the body camera’s perspective.

SA Michelle Frascone, BCA Force Investigative Unit

Next up was Special Agent Michelle Frascone, also from the BCA’s Force Investigative Unit.  Frascone was involved in evidence collection at the traffic and crash sites, as well as the collection of the Glock 17 pistols from Sergeant Johnson and Officer Potter.

The direct examination was by ADA Joshua Larson, and all we learned from Frascone was that Office Potter had used her own Glock to fire a 9mm round into Duante Wright.

So pointless was Frascone’s direct testimony that the defense did not bother to cross-examine her at all.

SA Sam McGinnis, BCA Force Investigative Unit

Next up was Special Agent Sam McGinnis, again from the BCA’s Force Investigative Unit.  Here we finally discovered some interesting information, although little of it seemed helpful to the State.  Direct was again by ADA Joshua Larsen, and cross-examination would be by Attorney Paul Engh.

For example, we learned that Kim Potter had received her Taser 7, a brand new model to the Brooklyn Center Police Department, on March 26, 2021, only about two weeks prior to her attempt to use it on Duante Wright on April 11, 2021.  Indeed, it was suggested that at the time Potter was the only officer in the entire department equipped with this new model Taser. Indeed, it was unclear if Potter had ever received substantive training on the new model Taser.

ADA Larson also sought to make a big deal out of the apparent fact that Kim Potter had function tested her Taser only 6 of the 10 times she was on duty between when she was first issued the new-model Taser and when she sought to use it against Duante Wright, when policy called for her to test the Taser before every shift.

None of this meant the Taser was in any way dysfunctional because of her failure to test it—when it was later tested about a month later by SA McGinnis, it tested fine, with 78% batter, plenty to work as intended, even without any tests in the intervening period.

ADA Larson also made a big point out of the fact that the Glock weighed about 2 pounds whereas the Taser weighed about 1 pound.  Larson also had McGinnis point out the various other ways the two weapons differed, including in color, grip size, lights on the Taser but not on the Glock 17, and so forth.

The implication of all this, of course, was that Potter should have known that she was holding a Glock 17 and not a Taser.  I’d note, however, that “should have known” is the standard for a finding of civil negligence, not criminal culpability.

Criminal culpability requires recklessness,, an intentional disregard of a known deadly force risk, and by all appearances Potter believed she had a Taser in her hands.  That mistake certainly appears negligent, but not reckless, and thus not criminal.

Then Larson proposed to have the jury actually hold a deactivated Taser in their hands, and apparently also hold a Glock 17 frame, I guess so they could feel the difference between the two, but Judge Chu did not permit this.

On cross-examination, Paul Engh emphasized that this was a new Taser–he actually twice called it a “gun,” and corrected himself, a clever ploy–and that any failure to test every shift had no substantive consequence, that McGinnis might know how often officers were supposed to test but did not know how often officers actually tested, and so forth.  Engh also noted that when McGinnis had accompanied a consenting Potter to the hospital for a blood test for drugs, nothing was found in her system.

Notably, Engh also asked McGinnis if the Special Agent had ever asked the Taser company why they designed their Taser to be shaped in essentially a pistol-like configuration, instead of some distinct shape designed to avoid confusing Taser and pistol, and McGinnis responded that he did not know why.

Forensic Scientist Eric Koppen, BCA DNA Technician

Next up was BCA DNA Technician Eric Koppen.

All we learned from him was that the DNA in the blood found in the white Buick was that of Duante Wright, except for a small portion of blood in the passenger area of the car that was unmatched by DNA but almost certainly that of passenger/girlfriend Albrecht-Payton.

Shocking

Direct was conducted by ADA Joshua Larson, and so pointless was this testimony that the defense declined to cross-examine Koppen at all.

Ballistic Scientist Travis Melland, BCA Firearms Technician

The final witness of the day was BCA Firearms Technician Travis Melland.  He testified that a test bullet fired from the Glock 17 of Kim Potter matched the bullet recovered from the body of Duante Wright.

Shocking.

Curiously, although ADA Larson had Melland testify that the trigger weight of Kim Potter’s Glock 17 pistol was 5.5 pounds (perfectly normal for an OEM Glock 17), larson never obtained any testimony on the trigger weight of Potter’s Taser 7.

Again, so pointless was this testimony that the defense declined to cross-examine Melland at all.

End-of-Day

With that, Judge Chu decided to recess court a bit early for the day.  She did note that she had two written motions from the State to review tonight, and the defense indicated that they would respond orally in the morning.

ADA Joshua Larson also made a request for an in chambers meeting to discuss “an issue” before everyone went home for the night, but that was obviously done outside of the broadcast window for the day.

TUESDAY: DAUNTE WRIGHT SHOOTING TRIAL DAY 5 LIVE

Be sure to join us at Legal Insurrection tomorrow morning for our ongoing LIVE coverage—including real-time commenting and streaming of the trial proceedings, starting at 9 am CT, and then again at day’s end for our analysis of the day’s events.

Until then:

Remember

You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.

Know the law so you’re hard to convict.

Stay safe!

–Andrew

Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC

Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. Nothing in this content establishes an attorney-client relationship, nor confidentiality. If you are in immediate need of legal advice, retain a licensed, competent attorney in the relevant jurisdiction.

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Comments

Well it’s clear that the purpose of the trial is not to seek justice but only to convict the defendant regardless.

Kim Potter’s Glock 17 pistol was 5.5 pounds (perfectly normal for an OEM Glock 17).

An aside. Glock makes additional trigger pull options… the “NY1” and “NY2” with increased pull weight. I switched mine out to NY1 and found the NY2 a little too heavy. You can figure out who asked for them and why. Admittedly, with an adrenaline dump the trigger pull difference will be minimal but I like the extra margin. I watched Massad Ayoob beat two state cop champs with his Glock 30 with NY1 against their 17s on the FBI qualification course.

I really feel for Officer Potter.

In my time as a beat cop, I was in a couple of scenarios that came very close to requiring lethal force, but luckily didn’t. I was able to use less lethal weapons to gain control of the suspect. During those events, I always was completely aware of what weapon I was using. No question that I was either holding a 9mm or a taser.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I am better than Officer Potter. I was just able to stay calm and clearheaded enough to keep my situational awareness.

Even though the scenarios I was in were fast paced and required quick responses, I can imagine being in a situation where the timeline speeds up to a point to where I might grab the wrong tool. That must have been what happened to her. That surprises me since she has so many years under her belt. She had an instant to react and she reacted wrong.

As I said, I feel for her. If it had been me, I don’t think a night would pass when I wouldn’t dream of that tragedy. That’s a big part of her punishment, but I also think that the legal system will ultimately punish her also, right or wrong.

    MidnightTreeBandit in reply to NavyMustang. | December 14, 2021 at 12:23 am

    Right there with you.

      As a cop, you are authorized to use deadly force. Possession of that right means that you are capable of using it correctly. When you don’t, you must face the consequences. And those consequences should be significant, otherwise cops will be allowed to run around and shoot people and say, “oops, I made a mistake.” Is that how this works?

        Milhouse in reply to Mark. | December 14, 2021 at 2:10 pm

        Are you suggesting that she intentionally drew her gun, and her claim that she thought she had the taser was merely a pretense?! Because if you’re not claiming that then your comment makes no sense. She’s not just saying she made a mistake; nobody disputes that it was a genuine mistake. So the only question is whether she behaved recklessly. If she did not (and all the evidence says she did not), then she cannot have committed a crime. It’s as simple as that.

        Milhouse in reply to Mark. | December 14, 2021 at 2:12 pm

        As a driver, you are authorized to use a deadly weapon. Possession of that right means that you are capable of using it correctly. When you don’t, you must face the consequences. And those consequences should be significant, otherwise drivers will be allowed to run around and shoot people and say, “oops, I made a mistake.”

        Is that how you want it to work?! Do you really want to be criminally liable every time you’re in a car crash, without the state having to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were reckless?!

      If I make a mistake or commit a crime unknowingly, I will be prosecuted and found guilty because ignorance is no excuse. What is different in this case? Cops get to use the ignorance defense and we can’t?

        Milhouse in reply to Mark. | December 14, 2021 at 2:06 pm

        Ignorance of the law is not an excuse (though with the complexity of the law nowadays it ought to be). That means you can be prosecuted and convicted for intentionally doing something that you didn’t know was illegal.

        Generally ignorance of the facts is an excuse; that is the requirement of mens rea. There are a small number of exceptions, where the legislature specifically imposed strict criminal liability.

        But you can not be prosecuted for involuntary acts. Even with strict liability crimes, you had to intend to commit the act itself, even if you were ignorant not only of the law but also of the facts.

        But that’s all general theory. In this case we’re dealing with a specific crime, manslaughter. And manslaughter absolutely requires recklessness. That’s its definition. You intentionally did something that you knew might kill someone, and you decided to do it anyway. And Potter did not do that. (Except of course in the sense that she knew Tasers can also kill, so she knowingly took the risk of killing Wright; but that’s not a problem for her, because she was entitled to take that risk. Indeed had she decided the taser wasn’t going to be enough, and intentionally drawn her gun, she would have been found justified.)

i listened fo quite a while.
It really was as bad as the title suggests.
I imagine them just showing her shooting him, then her breakdown over and over for two weeks straight if they had their way.
The judge gives the impression that she ha the mentality of a eight year old.

Most boring trial ever.

    Mick Gold Coast QLD in reply to BillyHW. | December 14, 2021 at 3:00 am

    I agree, the law really needs to lift its game and offer an alternative source of entertainment in the courts – joker judges revealing their inner Ricky Gervais, court clerks who snarl as Whoopi the Witch, barristers who grin at the cameras just like lifetime village idiot Jim Carrey.

    Statutes and rules should be rewritten onto colourful paper in sentences no longer than seven words. With pictures.

    That innovation would fit right in to a US electorate with the concentration span of a sandfly and brains the size of a mosquito’s.

    Have you been sent to sleep by your widely loved small p president?

I really have to wonder how jurors are reacting to this. Are they sitting there thinking “we know this!” I know I would be seething after spending so many days sitting through hours and hours of testimony about things everybody already knows and agrees about.

Sorry but she’s guilty…it’s pretty open and shut. I don’t know if I’d call it reckless, but whatever is the most appropriate statute in the state for involuntary manslaughter under aggravated circumstances created by the victim.

    If it’s not reckless then it’s not a crime.

    CuriousJustice in reply to healthguyfsu. | December 14, 2021 at 6:14 am

    So you’re not going to read the statute or any case law, but just conclude that it’s a crime because you feel it should be?

    She is charged with 1st and 2nd degree manslaughter. First degree is predicated on reckless use of a firearm. Second degree is causing the death of another “by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another”. She didn’t consciously take a chance.

      healthguyfsu in reply to CuriousJustice. | December 15, 2021 at 9:29 am

      No, I”m not going to read the statute or any case law…do I look like an Andrew Branca to you?

      My point, which I knew wouldn’t be popular, is that no one can or should get off scott free for accidentally using their gun instead of a taser. If she had made an intentional shot, which I believe she was within her rights to do, then it’d be a different story.

      Sadly, the precedent that would be established by the way this went down would and should not be allowable. I will say that if the state has overcharged her and she gets off then that is their problem. However, that may be part of the strategy to gin up “peaceful protests” for the life of another scumbag that shouldn’t be mourned or even remembered.

    Chewbacca in reply to healthguyfsu. | December 14, 2021 at 9:07 am

    That’s not how the law works. There are elements of the offense written into the law that have to be met. If all of those elements are not met then the crime has not been committed and it’s up to the state to prove those elements in court.

    alaskabob in reply to healthguyfsu. | December 14, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    The Left believes in absolute accountability …. except when it matters… to them. She just didn’t walk up to the first car she found and shoot. When seconds count.. seconds count BIG TIME. I do think that there might be civil damage issues but this act was not criminal. Going forward, the assessment of taser placement per performance and safety must be analyzed.

Mick Gold Coast QLD | December 14, 2021 at 3:42 am

The bloke that ended up dead does not warrant this amount of attention – he was a grubby little standover man / armed thief before he departed childhood! He was allowed to breed at age 15 or something, another brat to replace him, which beggars belief. Dig a hole, fill it back in and forget him.

I say Kim Potter was in the wrong job, which is not surprising, because sex rather than suitability is the primary selection criteria in the educated self-loathing west.

After 26 years on the job she reacts by standing looking at her hand with a gun in it, pointing directly at another policeman, and bursts into tears?

That stupidity exposes her workmates to utterly unnecessary risk.

    Isn’t that kind of how being an outlaw worked? You were a habitual criminal and so were places outside the protection of the law? We need something like that.

    The attention is not on him, it’s on her actions. His character is irrelevant. Most murder victims are awful people, who may have deserved to die; but that doesn’t excuse the murderer, who had no right to bring about their deaths.

    As Hillel said to the floating skull: “Because you drowned people, you were drowned; and in the end those who drowned you will drown.”

FWIW, Taser designed their devices to resemble and operate like firearms because law enforcement officers already have firearms training by the time they are introduced to the Taser and it shortens the training time on the device.

I’m more curious how they carried and used the Taser. Many agencies carry the Taser on the off side in a crossdraw holster and used with dominant hand. Others carry it off side and use the Taser with the off hand, specifically to reduce the chance of drawing the wrong weapon. I’m also curious about their training with the units.

seems potter, in her judgment, determined wright was a lethal threat to her fellow officers/the public–if am understanding correctly, lethal force was thereby justified–because of her actions, whether with a firearm/taser/shillelagh, wright is dead but he harmed no one else–and his active/violent resistance to arrest was the precursor to this entire sequence of events

    Milhouse in reply to texansamurai. | December 14, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    Yes. If lethal force was not justified then she could not have tasered him either. For her to draw her taser she had to have already established that lethal force was justified. But even then, one may only use the minimum force that’s necessary. If a taser will do the job, one may not use a gun. Which is why she went for her taser. That she accidentally drew the gun is unfortunate, but for it to be manslaughter the state must somehow prove that it was reckless, and I don’t see how it can possibly do so. So far it hasn’t even tried.